Hypnosis explained (myth busting)

Hypnosis is a very simple and easily explained psychological phenomenon – but it is often misrepresented as some kind of black magic or false mysticism. This lack of fair representation leaves many to dismiss “hypnotic wisdom” as mere fantasy or nonsense; and we usually think of those who have been hypnotized as weak-minded or gullible. But actually none of this is true.

I hope to take a few minutes of your time to debunk some of these myths surrounding hypnosis and hopefully give you a clearer understanding of what this phenomenon is really all about.

Before I continue to debunk these myths, let me first give a quick definition of what I believe hypnosis really is:

Hypnosis is a set of effective communication techniques (often using direct or indirect “suggestion”) to shape one’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors.

Despite this broad-sounding definition, it is hypnosis in a nutshell. Now let’s begin.

MYTH 1: Hypnosis is a state of consciousness

Hypnosis is not at all related to any particular state of consciousness. The reason people confuse hypnosis with a state of consciousness is that we often associate hypnosis techniques as those that lead to a state of half-sleep and half-awake. We envision patients lying on leather sofas with their eyes closed and their consciousness turned inward toward their “subconscious.” But the fact is that hypnosis can be used to expand awareness just as effectively as it can be used to reduce awareness.

A perfect example of hypnosis that works in “normal” consciousness is stage hypnosis. When a participant clucks like a chicken or acts out a scene in Saving Private Ryan – it’s not about the individual being unconscious and being pulled by the strings like a stuffed doll – they’re just in a situation where they’re comfortable acting out behaviors they wouldn’t normally do in front of a crowd. The hypnotist does not “control” them – they are only communicated with very effectively. The free will of the participants is still present throughout the session. The participant can snap out of hypnosis whenever they want, but why should they when they’re having so much fun pretending?

MYTH 2: All hypnosis is “pretend play.”

During stage hypnosis, the participants are well aware that they are not actually a chicken or that they are not actually in the movie. They know how to act (incidentally hypnosis can make good actors out of people).

But not all hypnosis can be considered “pretend play”. It depends on the nature of the proposals given. If the suggestion is to “cluck like a chicken”, the patient will act it out. If the suggestion is “remember a time in your past when you felt really confident” – this is not pretense – the patient is really thinking about it and association themselves at that time when they were really safe.

I agree with hypnotists who believe that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. This means that a hypnotist usually cannot trick someone into doing something against their will. There is always alignment on both sides of the interaction. The only difference is that hypnotists can induce unusual or unusual behaviors if they discover the right way to communicate.

MYTH 3: Scientific studies claim that only 5% of the population is susceptible to hypnosis.

This is partly true: scientific studies often claim that only 5-10% of the population is susceptible to hypnosis. But these studies are largely flawed because researchers only test participants with common hypnotic inductions and generic hypnosis scripts. However, hypnosis does not work in a universal way (because its effectiveness comes from the use of our personal and unique associations and understanding of language)…

A true hypnotist has the ability to read his patient, move away from generic scripts and discover the language that is most suggestive to that patient.

There are even techniques in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming – a practice that could be considered “modern hypnosis”) that allow NLP practitioners to discover a person’s linguistic tendencies (sometimes called “trance words” or “keywords”) by simply asking the patient a series of questions.

In other words, with the right hypnotist and the right communication – everyone is susceptible to hypnosis.

MYTH 4: Hypnosis is similar to meditation

This is a common misunderstanding. Again, hypnosis is a set of communication techniques, while meditation is a more specific practice that is more related to a state of awareness or mindfulness.

However, you can use hypnosis techniques to aid in your meditative practice. What is often called “Guided Meditation” can be considered a form of hypnosis, and a degree of self-hypnosis (meaning without third-party guidance) can also be used to expand or narrow consciousness into a specific meditative state.

But again, hypnosis is not about a person’s mental state – it’s about expressing ideas or suggestions.

Sometimes a certain mental state can be more conducive to learning. This is why hypnotherapists often choose to put their patients in a relaxed state before getting into the main part of their session. People who are relaxed tend to feel fresher, can concentrate more, improve their cognitive abilities and therefore learn faster.

However, stage hypnotists do not want to bring their participants into relaxed states. That would be a boring show. Instead, they usually want to instill some excitement or a sense of adventure – similar to the mood a child would be in.

MYTH 5: Hypnosis on the highway

Highway hypnosis, as defined by Wikipedia, says:

Highway hypnosis is a mental state in which a person can drive a truck or car over long distances, reacting to external events in an expected manner, without any memory of having consciously done so. In this state, the driver’s conscious mind is apparently entirely focused elsewhere, with seemingly direct processing of the mass of information required for safe driving. ‘Highway hypnosis’ is just one manifestation of a relatively common experience, theoretically where the conscious and subconscious mind seem to be concentrating on different things; workers who perform simple repetitive tasks and people who do not sleep are likely to experience similar symptoms. Therefore, it is a kind of subconscious “driving mode”.

Again, you may already be able to guess what’s wrong with this definition: hypnosis is not a mental state!

Highway hypnosis is a trance state (it is a departure from “everyday” consciousness). There is no communication, and therefore no hypnosis. Another similar (and equally natural) trance state is when you get so engrossed in a movie that you lose track of time.

It’s easy to see how these states can be confused with hypnosis because hypnosis usually likes to replicate these trance states to increase suggestibility (but remember: if there are no suggestions being communicated – then it’s not hypnosis).

MYTH 6: Hypnosis is not a real catalyst for physical or chemical changes in the body.

In fact even just for the simple fact that the brain is made up of electro-chemicals called neurons that fire between 50-200 times per second makes anything a potential catalyst for chemical change in the body. All we have to do is think about something and our brain chemistry changes.

But more practical people want to know if hypnosis can really result in body changes like weight gain/loss, muscle building or even breast/penis enlargement. Usually the answer to all these questions is “yes, to some extent”.

Hypnosis cannot make your body do anything it is not already capable of doing naturally on its own. But hypnosis has been proven to help guide the body through certain changes by using suggestions for behavioral changes (such as eating less, motivation to go to the gym) and even direct changes in the body (changes in metabolism, the time it takes muscles to recover , and there have even been cases of improved vision, and yes, penis and breast enlargement – hypnosis has proven particularly good at directing significant soft tissue changes).

Remember: hypnosis helps to create changes towards the maximum potential of the body – it does not allow you to overcome your biological disposition in some “mystical way”. Although there is a good chance that hypnosis will reveal things about your body that you were previously unaware of.

MYTH 7: You should not try hypnosis without a trained hypnotist or hypnotherapist.

Most trained hypnotists and hypnotherapists would tell you that you should always seek out a professional. But it would be hypocritical of me to say that you have to do it because I’m completely self-taught. In fact, I believe everyone should learn hypnosis so they can check it out for themselves and see the potential.

Hypnosis is a natural phenomenon – it is your natural right to explore it, as well as to explore the mind/body as a whole. There are many books, podcasts and videos to help you get started with hypnosis – experiment as much as you like, get a feel for the difference in techniques and start to discover the underlying principles of what makes a hypnotist flexible and effective.

I would recommend that you start practicing self-hypnosis techniques. Nothing too advanced. Just practice getting yourself into a state of relaxation or light trance through hypnotic suggestion.

You can also practice by reading generic scripts to a friend or family member and having them read some to you. They’re not the most efficient things in the world, but that usually makes them harmless and easy to practice.

Search for free hypnosis scripts on Google and check out some of the simple scripts for things like “Confidence” or “Relaxation”.

Don’t take the beginning of your learning too seriously, just get a feel for the different stages of a hypnosis session: inductions, scripts, how to exit the session appropriately.

Hypnosis is usually a pleasant experience, but sometimes things go wrong. Familiarize yourself with how to quickly end sessions if you find yourself on a bad path, especially before diving into some of the more advanced techniques such as adjustments in our belief systems or the foundations of our character.

I hope this gives you a clearer idea of ​​what this hypnosis is really all about.

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